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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Village of Pound Now Near Legal Debt Limit

Issue Date: April 4, 2019

Some serious financial issues that were brought to light at a special meeting of the Pound Village Board at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19 carried over into short tempers and some angry outbursts at the board's regular monthly meeting on Monday, April 1.

Agenda for the March 19 meeting, prepared by Clerk/Treasurer Patricia Schutte, and posted at 10:30 a.m. Monday, March 18, called for approval of a resolution "to borrow monies for shortfall on Walker St. project."

The notice was issued barely within the 24-hour requirement for an emergency meeting and the press was not notified. The notice reportedly was posted on the village website, and at the village hall, community center and post office, where it could be seen by anyone who knew to look for it.

Minutes of the meeting, as prepared by Clerk/Treasurer Schutte state that "Board members asked questions.... Clerk/Treasurer Schutte provided financial information requested and more along with answering all questions asked. Board wants to borrow $125,000 ($103,000 shortfall and $22,000 audit)..." The minutes go on to say the board would like to take out the loan for five years or more..."however long the bank will allow."

Also according to the minutes Trustee John Homontowski asked if this could be a line of credit with withdrawals when needed, and Clerk/Treasurer Schutte said she would ask the banker.

"There is no money left for anything," Trustee David Navis told the Peshtigo Times after that meeting. He said the new loan brings the village's total debt to $687,000, just $7,000 below its legal allowable debt limit of $694,000, and that is in addition to the $400,000 owed by the Village Water Utility. Discussion at the board meeting on April 1 included mention of those figures by other board members.

The original resolution prepared by Schutte for the March 19 meeting mentioned $97,000 needed "for public purpose due to a shortfall from the Walker St. project and.." There was a scribbled notation about funding for the Sikich audit, which is currently underway, and then the resolution "set forth theVillage and the Utility Commission" to borrow the sum of $125,000 from Stephenson National Bank And Trust.

On Nov. 5, 2018 a 90-day note for $85,000 had been taken out to cover the shortfall, but no provisions for paying it back were put into the 2019 budget, Navis said. He added that they have a very tight budget for 2019 which now will need to be stretched to include repaying the newly approved loan.

For the past few months board members have been seeking more information on where their money comes from and when and where it is going.

The board also has been considering a handbook describing duties of village employees, of which there are two - Clerk/Treasurer Schutte and her husband, Public Works Director and Water Utility Operator Kevin Schutte.

Agenda for the April 1 meeting included acceptance of a certified survey map for a proposed manufactured and mobile home development planned by Dennis Lepinski following presentation by Jeff Lieuwen of Rob Land Kamps Surveying. There also was provision under old business for "employee benefits."

At the start of the meeting Homontowski asked for details of the loan and was told interest will be 4 percent.

Navis asked how changes to minutes from previous meetings happen, because the board had voted to make a change in minutes of its Jan. 7 meeting, and the original minutes have not been changes and are still posted on line. Clerk/Treasurer Schutte said she thought she had changed them.

The board went on with regular business until they reached the "employee benefits" discussion.

Board members appeared surprised that it was on the agenda.

"I thought we were going to discuss the employee manual further before we did anything on this," Homontowski commented.

"We're not in a financial situation to give away any more money," Village President Terry Earley declared emphatically. "We're already borrowing money just to keep going!"

Navis noted the benefits had been increased last year to provide $8,000 to help cover the cost of health insurance.

Trustee Mary Meyer commented that Village Financial Advisor Joel Rennie had told them there were options that would allow the Schuttes to avoid paying income taxes on that money, but those options had not been selected, so now Kevin Schutte gets money each month toward their health insurance. Clerk/Treasurer Schutte's job is a salaried full time position without benefits.

She said the benefits item on the agenda was to provide vacation pay for the public works and utility director (Kevin Schutte).

"We can't do that until we get information on the budget,' declared Navis. "We need to know where we stand on the budget!" He explained they needed regular monthly reports on how much had been put into the budget in each category, how much had been spent or committed, and how much was left.

Meyer said if they had that information in 2018 they would have had money left over instead of being forced to borrow.

Navis said according to the profit and loss statement they were given, the village had $477,215 income in 2018 and $657,671 in expenses.

"We've got to have a budget so we can watch this monthly," he repeated.

Meyer suggested having the auditor explain how to do it if Schutte could not figure it out.

"The problem is you guys can "t remember what you did six months ago," Kevin Schutte exploded."Do you need a set of crayons??? It's up to you guys to remember more!!!" He suggested they should do the reports they were requesting. Navis said it is easy on the computer, and began explaining how to do it.

After more talk Kevin Schutte exploded again, saying he is the second largest taxpayer in the village and objecting loudly that he gets no paid vacation and is expected to do work for which others get six figure incomes.

"You need a 5-year plan" he told the board, adding that when he was Village president he even had a 10-year plan for streets and other improvements.

He asked, since they have no more money for anything, where they would get money for the mobile home park they had promised to supply with water and sewer utilities. The board did not have an answer, except that there will be no work done on County Q this year, and probably none next year.

Bills were quickly approved for payment and the meeting adjourned with discussions still going on.


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